Shapps looks to close legal loophole amid claims child abusers changing names to avoid detection
Ministers are urgently looking into reports that convicted child abusers are changing their names to avoid detection by officials, the Home Secretary has said.
Grant Shapps (pictured) claimed he was working to close the loophole in the law, as he told MPs he will use “all available levers” to protect children from sexual abuse and “right the wrongs exposed” by a seven-year independent inquiry into the issue.
In its final report published last week, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse described sexual abuse of children as an “epidemic that leaves tens of thousands of victims in its poisonous wake”.
The inquiry concluded that people in positions of trust should be compelled by law to report child sexual abuse, and that a national compensation scheme for victims should be introduced.
It also recommended enabling more frequent use of the disclosure and barring service (DBS), aimed at making sure volunteers or employees working with children are safe to do so.
Conservative former home secretary Sajid Javid told the Commons: “Can I just ask him particularly about the disclosure and barring service which I think is referenced some 84 times in the report.
“When I led a commission in 2020 into child sexual abuse and exploitation, there were a number of issues we discovered around the DBS service, but in particular the ability for some people to simply change their name and avoid detection despite being convicted child sexual abusers.
“This loophole has still not been closed by the Government, so can I urge him to work with his colleagues in the Ministry of Justice and close this as quickly as possible?”
Mr Shapps replied: “It is very concerning about the DBS service and actually I have asked my ministerial colleague to look into this urgently and that work is already under way. So I will report back to the House.”
Responding to the inquiry’s conclusion, Mr Shapps had earlier apologised on behalf of the Government, telling MPs: “I cannot imagine the pain victims have been through.
“So I say this on behalf of the Government, and all governments that come before, to all the victims who have suffered this horrendous abuse, I am truly sorry.”
The Home Secretary would not commit to immediately implement any of the report’s recommendations, telling the Commons the Government needed to “take time to carefully consider its findings and recommendations in full”.
But he added: “Let me make this promise now. I will use all available levers to protect our children and right the wrongs exposed by the inquiry’s findings. I will do all in my power to improve how law enforcement and the criminal justice system respond to child sexual abuse.
“And I will work with my ministerial colleagues and across party lines to hold organisations to account, bring perpetrators to justice and support victims and survivors with compassion and total care.”
Conservative former prime minister Theresa May, who set up the inquiry, said the report had “shone a light on the horrific violence against children that has been taking place” and should be treated with “utter seriousness”.
Mrs May added: “The Government now has an opportunity on the back of this inquiry report to make changes that will make a real difference, so I urge (Mr Shapps) to make sure that all parts of Government take this report and treat it with utter seriousness and particularly the recommendation on mandatory reporting.”
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper paid tribute to the victims and survivors “who pressed for this inquiry and who have shown great bravery and strength in telling their stories, speaking out to seek justice, to seek truth and to seek protection for others”.
She added: “This is a deeply serious report about one of the worst imaginable crimes, about the sexual abuse and exploitation of children. The violence and pain, the terror that they have described, the degradation and violation and the consequences that they have felt throughout their lives.
Ms Cooper warned that the report was “too important to get lost in all of the political changes that have been taking place and all of the confusion within Government”.
Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2022, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Jessica Taylor / PA.